Previously, only those in receipt of a war pension or recognition under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme were entitled to priority treatment.
The move extends care to service personnel from conflicts, including the Falklands, Afghanistan and Iraq. The Welsh Assembly Government will be issuing guidance to clinicians to highlight the extension of priority treatment for war veterans.
Clinicians will continue to decide on the priority for treatment based on patients clinical needs – war veterans will not automatically go to the top of the waiting lists.
In addition, a new model of community mental health services will be piloted to offer veterans access to clinicians with expertise in veterans’ mental health and provide assessment and help for veterans to get suitable treatment.
The University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff will be one of six sites across the UK to take part in the two-year pilot scheme, and if proved successful, may be rolled-out across Wales. The facility will have a trained community veterans' mental health therapist and veterans will be able to access the service directly or through their GP, ex-service organisations, the Veterans' Welfare Service, or Social Service departments. This is on top of the mental health services that GPs can refer patients, including inpatient treatment or referral to a specialist service if that was clinically appropriate.
Edwina Hart said:
As well as having responsibility for the health service, I have responsibilities to Veterans in Wales - an issue I feel strongly about and take great interest in.
Our service men and women do an outstanding job and we all owe them a debt of gratitude and a duty of care, particularly those who have developed health problems as a result of their military service.
Today’s announcement will expand the provision of support and care for service personnel and include further help for veterans who may have experienced mental health problems as a result of military service.
The new community health pilot will be staffed by qualified mental healthcare professionals who have an understanding of the military ethos and military operations, and an expertise in veterans' mental health.
These measures will greatly improve the care on offer for our veterans.
- 170,000 war pensioners at present getting priority NHS treatment across the UK.
- Hull Primary Care Trust recently extended priority to all veterans whose conditions are suspected of being service-related. The Welsh Health Minister Edwina Hart and English Health Secretary Alan Johnson have decided this move should be extended across Wales and England.
- The Welsh Assembly Government and Department of Health will be issuing guidance to GPs in Wales and England respectively to remind clinicians about the extension of priority treatment for war veterans.
These measures will extend the arrangements to any of the UK’s five million veterans whose conditions are suspected of being due to service.
- It is not expected that there are many veterans who will come forward for priority treatment for service-related conditions, but it is hoped that this change will benefit a small number of people whose conditions become problems after discharge and who have not yet applied for a War Pension. The main conditions are likely to be mental health, audiology and orthopaedics.
- The community mental health model will be NHS-led and reflects NHS best practice. The pilot at the Staffordshire & Shropshire Foundation Healthcare Trust is now open. In the coming months, the other pilots will open in Cardiff, Camden & Islington, Newcastle, St Austell and Scotland; the location for the pilot in Scotland is still to be confirmed.
- The facility will be based at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff and will cover the Cardiff and Vale, Pontypridd & Rhondda and North Glamorgan Trust areas. The facility will be funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and Ministry of Defence.
23 November 2007